Build a Better Normal: Advising Clients in a Brave New World

According to Asia Pacific Real Estate Association CEO Sigrid Zialcita, the building of the future is efficient, safe, smart, healthy, and sustainable

  • July 17, 2020

  • Written by Denny Mata and Judith Torres

“How do you build safe, smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings at a reasonable cost?” Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (APREA) CEO Sigrid Zialcita responds when BluPrint asks her what she most wants to hear from AIDEA President and CEO Jojo Tolentino and M Moser Associates Director, Dr. Christine Bruckner.  

Zialcita, Tolentino, and Bruckner are speakers at the LIXIL Design DeepDive™ Live Session, ‘Advising Clients in a Brave New World,’ streaming live on July 22 from 2:00 to 3:15 PM at the American Standard Facebook page.

Hong Kong. Photographed by Ruslan Bardash via Unsplash

Sigrid Zialcita’s question aptly frames what most clients want to know from design and construction professionals since COVID-19 has exposed the lack of spaces and structures that safeguard the health and wellbeing of its users. It’s a question many will want Jojo Tolentino to answer, since he openly encourages architects to serve as their clients’ trusted advisers and business partners. Are healthy buildings good for business? How far will he go to persuade clients that that is so? The same question goes for Christine Bruckner, whose presentation title is, ‘Embracing a workplace paradigm shift prioritizing human wellbeing and planetary stewardship through design.’

READ MORE: Are you ready to build a better normal?

BluPrint LIXIL DeepDive Live Sessions Sigrid Zialcita
Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (APREA) CEO Sigrid Zialcita at the ICSC RECon, discussing the performance of Asia Pacific Retail REITs. October 2019. Photo from APREA

Although Sigrid Zialcita’s question may sound like a challenge, her presentation, ‘Asian Real Estate: From Resilience to Reimagination,’ is not at odds with Bruckner’s idealistic stance. It strikes a positive note while acknowledging the challenges of restructuring businesses and re-contextualizing corporate vision.

Sigrid Zialcita says she will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on developers and their most pressing needs from the design industry. “I will share some of the significant structural trends and the macro environment in which developers and property owners across Asia will be building and operating in the next two to five years, as well as the owners and tenants’ greatest concerns, priorities and needs from design professionals,” she explains.

Singapore, view from Marina Bay Sands Skypark. Photographed by Christoph Theisinger via Unsplash

18 years in the industry, 18 months as APREA CEO

It has only been 18 months since Sigrid Zialcita assumed the CEO position at APREA in January 2019. Based in Singapore, Zialcita is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction, initiatives, and operations of the association across Asia Pacific. 

BluPrint LIXIL DeepDive Live Sessions Sigrid Zialcita
Sigrid Zialcita, speaking before 35 students from Cornell University Baker Program in Singapore. January 2020. Photo from Cornell Real Estate Review

The past five months have been most atypical and disruptive. Like many other businesses around the world, APREA had to adjust to the ‘new normal.’ Technological and digital solutions proved to be the best bet across businesses, with online launches, online bookings, online shopping, virtual tours, and virtual meetings.

“Our business had to pivot quickly and switch to a digital platform. But it also turned out to be an opportunity for us to leverage on our strength as a pan-Asia trade organization. Technology has allowed us to connect our membership base regionally, and we have seen higher engagement and even grown the membership,” says Sigrid Zialcita. “As a business leader, I learned to be more creative and resilient but at the same time, to create personal boundaries.”

YOU MIGHT LIKE: For Christine Bruckner, ‘Build a Better Normal’ means prioritizing the wellbeing of people and the planet

Prior to APREA, Sigrid Zialcita spent 15 years in Cushman & Wakefield and three years in the National Association of Realtors in Washington D.C., making her an expert in forecasting, corporate real estate, investment advisory, and market research. She is a frequent speaker at trade industry events and a resource for business news media such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg, New York Times, and Reuters.

Sigrid Zialcita holds a Master of Business Administration from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management and a Master’s degree in Economics from Pennsylvania State University.

BluPrint LIXIL DeepDive Live Sessions Sigrid Zialcita
Types of recession and economic recovery

Forecasting a U or V recovery

In her article published in LinkedIn earlier this year, Sigrid Zialcita explains her optimistic outlook for the APAC real estate industry, despite the uncertainty over a cure for COVID-19 and the full effects of the novel coronavirus on those infected. Here’s an excerpt describing why she believes the region’s economy is resilient and will recover:

“While it is hard to imagine economic growth amid lockdowns and shutdowns, this is not ’08-09. Recovery, whether U or V-shaped, will have to happen and companies will need to be open for business. Some hard-hit real estate sectors are already being given some relief funds to help blunt the economic fall-out from this natural catastrophe.

“Nonetheless, we find many REITs in Asia Pacific to be well-capitalized with leverage well within guidelines, high levels of corporate governance and have generally been prudent in their acquisitions. Their strong cash flows and lines of credit should help weather the downturn and in turn, offer value, and potentially gaining from the region’s economic ascent as income streams gradually stabilize in the medium term.

“Valuations are also expected to benefit from widening spreads as governments undertake monetary stimulus to offset the impact from the COVID-19 outbreak. The Bank of Japan’s pledge to double the pace of purchases for J-REITs will, for example, support prices. Further, we can take comfort that the commercial real estate sector in Asia Pacific had a lot of momentum going into the crisis which should allow for a quicker return to normalcy.”

READ MORE: Aidea isn’t just ready for the new normal, but to build a much better one

The billion-peso question

Conceptualized and moderated by former BluPrint editor-in-chief Judith Torres, each webinar also has a panel of three reactors to respond to the presentations and kickstart an hour-long Q&A between the speakers and audience. So, in addition to the three speakers, Zialcita, Tolentino, and Bruckner, the July 22 live session includes reactors Cherie Fernandez, VP for Developments at Federal Land, Toni Vasquez, CEO and Principal Architect of T.I. Vasquez Architects & Planners; Dexter Lee, Managing Director of Luana Lifestyle and Leisure Hotel and co-developer of Lotus Central Mall; and Cherie Fernandez, VP for Developments of Federal Land.

Vasquez, Lee, and Fernandez’s task is to react to the presentations and foment discussion by challenging the speakers’ assumptions and recommendations from their perspectives as architect and developers. The audience is encouraged to join in with questions of their own.

Sigrid Zialcita knows what the reactors and audience will want from her: “I work with a lot of building owners and developers across Asia and I expect the reactors and the audience to ask me how Asian owners and developers foresee the built environment.” Her answer? “The building of the future is efficient, safe, smart, healthy, and sustainable.”

We sure hope so, and look forward to learning how strong the impetus is in the Philippines to make that aspiration a reality.

Bonifacio Global City. Photographed by Ian Romie Ona via Unsplash

Watch ‘Build A Better Normal,’ the three-part LIXIL Design DeepDive™ Live Sessions – Philippines, and join the discussions. Watch the first live session, ‘Advising Clients in a Brave New World,’ streaming live on July 22 from 2:00 to 3:15 PM at the American Standard Facebook page.

BluPrint is the exclusive media partner of LIXIL Design DeepDive™ Live Sessions – Philippines, co-presented by LIXIL brands American Standard, GROHE, and INAX. Design DeepDive™ Live Sessions is a LIXIL Asia Pacific regional activity, with the first webinar series hosted by India and ‘Build a Better Normal’ hosted by the Philippines.

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